Skepticism and the paranormal
When it comes to the subject of ghosts, hauntings and the paranormal there are, in my opinion four basic types of personalities.
The first type is the true believer. These are the persons who believe in ghosts based on faith, and faith alone. They believe because of religious convictions, i.e. Christians who believe in angels and demons, Heaven and Hell and the continuation of the soul after death, they believe in such things because the religious doctrine of their faith demands it of them, they must believe.
Others may believe in ghosts and the paranormal because of some personal experiences they may have had with ghosts themselves. They may have seen or felt what they believe to be the apparition of a deceased loved one. This is probably most likely to occur shortly after the death of their loved one, and while they are still in a state of extreme grief. Or they may have lived in, or are now living in a house, that they believe to be haunted, and have experienced unusual, paranormal or poltergeist types of activity. Because of their experiences they are now convinced of the reality of the ghosts. Whether the events are real in an empirical manner really does not matter, because the person who experienced these events believes they are real, and that is all the proof they need. Some of the individuals who experience and believe in the paranormal may be mentally ill, hallucinate from the use of illicit drugs and even prescription medications can alter ones sense of reality. I do not make these statements to convince the believers that these things are not real, because in their minds they may be, very real! And who knows, perhaps what a psychiatrist or psychologist may label as an hallucination is in fact a vision of a reality that is invisible to the rest of us.
The second type of person is the open-minded skeptic. These are people who are open to the idea that there may be some things that are beyond the scope of normal human understanding and perhaps do exist. They believe that ghosts and the paranormal may be real. But the open-minded skeptic wants something more than just some hearsay or flimsy evidence to convince them of the reality of ghosts. They want some evidence that is more substantial than some scratchy, barely audible EVP or photos of orbs, fog or some other unexplainable anomaly, to help convince them of the reality of the paranormal and of ghosts. These are also the people who may be reluctant to believe, even if they themselves have had a paranormal type experience, because they know that the human mind can and does sometimes do play tricks on us, even their own mind. But I think that most open minded skeptics want to believe, but it's going to take more proof then has been put forward thus far.
The third type of person is the true skeptic. Many people who are labeled as skeptics are automatically assumed to be nonbelievers and closed minded. This is not the case at all. The skeptic isn't someone who disbelieves, but rather a person who want empirical and irrefutable scientific proof of the existence of the ghosts. They are the ones who believe that almost all claims of the paranormal and ghosts can be debunked as natural phenomena. But they are also the ones who can be convinced by using the appropriate scientific methodology. This I think is the category I would have placed myself, until of some personal experiences that I have had. I think most main stream scientists would fall into this category. They are trained to be analytical and skeptical and not buy into anything at face value. There is one famous skeptic, James Randi who offers a 1 million dollar reward to anyone who can prove the paranormal or any aspect of it. To date no one has been able to provide the proof needed to pass the test to Mr. Randi's satisfaction. I have listened to Mr. Randi speak and somehow he seems, to me to fall more into the last category (The closed-minded skeptic).
The fourth type of person is the closed-minded skeptic. These are the people who probably would not believe in ghosts or the paranormal under any conditions, and no matter what the proof may be, or who provided it. I think the reason some people may become this way is because of adverse reactions to religions indoctrinations. I also think most true atheists would fall into this category. Also some military veterans who may have experienced graphic and extreme war violence may also develop this attitude because their faith in the idea of God has been shaken, shaken to the point where they may almost become atheistic. My late father, who was a medic in world war II, was in this category, he believed that when you're dead your dead, and that's all there is to it. He did not believe in Heaven or Hell, life after death, ghosts or the paranormal or anything of that nature. To him it was all bunk. I don't even know for sure even if he had a belief in God or not. All I can say is "Dad. I hope you're wrong".
By Martin Burns